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D. B. Updike, Tke Merrymovnt Press, Boston 


Told on Christmas Evening, 1903 

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Dal ton 
Major and Mrs. Henry Da I ton 
Mrs. Frank Morison 
Elsie Dalton 
Susan Howe 
Isabel Morison 
Harry Dalton 
Julia Dwight 
Alice Dalton 
Leslie Morison 
Philip Dalton 
Susan Dalton 
Mac Gregor Morison 
Ellen Dalton 
Rogers Rich 


The first Town Meeting of the Chelms- 
ford settlement, in Middlesex County, was 
held September 22, 1654, more than two hun- 
dred and forty-nine years ago, at William 
Fletcher's house, there being no public town- 

My maternal ancestor, Edward Spaulding, 
as the name was then spelt, was chosen one 
of the Sele6lmen, as he was several times 

He married Margaret. 

His son John married Hannah. 

His son Edward married Priscilla, Gover- 
nor Endicott officiating. 

His son Joseph married Elizabeth. 

His son Simeon married Sarah. 

His son Noah married Anne. 

Noah and Anne were my grandparents. 

These six generations of gentlemen were 
yeomen, living on and cultivating their own 



lands, while serving the town, colony, state 
and church in various public offices. 

My great-grandfather. Colonel Simeon, in- 
herited lands from his father in 1728. When 
he was twenty-three years old, having fallen 
in love with Sarah, he married her, and that 
same year bought more land and soon built a 
house on it, where they lived the rest of their 
lives. This was our Chelmsford homestead, 
which my grandfather Noah inherited. He, 
his daughter Julia, who was my mother, and 
myself were born in this house. It is about 
one hundred and sixty years old, and is still 
standing, a modest stru6lure of two stories, 
the hewed posts and beams of the frame show- 
ing in the rooms. The oil pifture, copied from 
a pencil drawing of my brother John's, hangs 
on the wall of this room where we are now 
eating our 1903 Christmas dinner. 

There are, you will notice, several ancient 
elms about the house, which must be nearly if 



not quite the same age, and I suppose Colonel 
Simeon planted them. 

My grandfather Noah was fond of having 
his grandchildren about him, so it was here 
that, after my father moved to his own house, 
I stayed a great deal in summers, and often 
in winters, during my early teens. It seemed 
to me the pleasantest of all possible places. I 
liked it better than going to school. 

Sixty-odd years ago life on a New England 
farm was very different from that of to-day, as 
were also the chara6lers and qualities of the 
households. The farms, then, had usually de- 
scended through several generations of pure 
English stock, as you will have noticed by the 
names of the gentlemen and gentlewomen 
which I have mentioned in the opening of 
this story. In examining the first town records 
of Chelmsford I did not find a solitary name 
other than English. 

Furthermore, the "hired men," so called. 


were young Americans, who came down from 
New Hampshire and Vermont to work dur- 
ing the summer months. Their pay was four- 
teen to sixteen dollars a month, with board 
and lodging. They were generally young fel- 
lows of excellent chara6ler, with plenty of 
self-respe6t. They did not shirk their duties, 
but worked long hours, especially in haying 
and harvesting time. 

Much of my time was passed in their com- 
pany, in riding the horse while they held the 
plow between the rows of potatoes and corn, 
and in the hay-fields, and in turning the grind- 
stone when they sharpened their scythes, a 
kind of labor which made me tired. 

Nearly all the food consumed by the house- 
hold and animals was raised on the farm, and 
various industries, requiring no little know- 
ledge and skill, were carried on to supply the 
domestic wants. Purchases of food were lim- 
ited to such articles as tea,cofFee, sugar, spirits, 
spices, etc. The produc^ts of the farm were 


hay, wheat, rye, oats, corn, buckwheat, po- 
tatoes, beans, the small vegetables, fruits and 

The pigs grew into hogs, were fattened on 
corn, killed and salted, the hams and bacon 
smoked, the lard tried out, the beef corned, 
cheeses, butter, soap and candles made, fruits 
were preserved, and rose water made from 
the rose leaves, which I had to pick. 

The grain crops were reaped with the sic- 
kle, till a "cradle," so called, was substituted, 
— an efficient tool which required a stalwart 
man to swing, but it did great execution. Now 
it is as obsolete as the sickle. The grass was 
mowed with the scythe. The corn was husked 
by hand in the barn, sometimes in the even- 
ing by the dim light of two or three lanterns, 
followed by a simple supper. The ears were 
stored in bins and shelled by hand over the 
blade of a spade. 

The grain was threshed on the barn floor 
with flails. When required for grinding into 


meal it was winnowed, wind and weather be- 
ing favorable, by spreading a sheet on the 
grass and pouring on it the grain from a peck 
measure held by a man at arm's length above 
his head, the wind blowing the dust and chaff 
away, just as the Phoenicians did and as the 
Egyptians do to-day. A wonderful hand win- 
nowing machine was bought, which the neigh- 
bors came to see and admire, and the ancient 
pi6luresque way ceased. The grain was then 
bagged and taken to a little rickety grist mill, 
run by water from a brook some two miles 
the other side of the village, and ground into 
excellent meal, the miller taking his legal toll 
in payment for grinding. This was a full af- 
ternoon's job and I considered it " larks." The 
rude machinery seemed to me a wonderful 
creation of genius. 

There was a cider mill on the farm , worked 
by a horse, who went round in a circle, grind- 
ing our apples and those of the neighbors. 
During the autumn apple season the mill was 



busy all day and often well into the evening. 
I drove the horse, sitting on his back or in a 
chair fastened on the rig behind him. In the 
evening I was tied into the chair to prevent 
me from falling off if I went to sleep, which I 
generally did, but the horse did not know it, 
and would keep moving if I was there ; or if 
he did stop, I woke up and started him along. 
About forty barrels of cider was the year's 
produ6t of the farm ; some was bottled, the 
bottles kept in sand in the cellar, and when 
opened the cider sparkled like this champagne 
which you have been drinking ; some was kept 
in wood for common use, and some turned 
into vinegar for making pickles. This was the 
beginning of my manufa6luring experience. 
With all these varied produ6ls of the farm, 
the table was generously provided with the 
best of food. The kitchen fireplace was so large 
that I used to go into it, and, looking up the 
chimney, see the stars at night. The meats 
were roasted in a tin kitchen in front of the 


fire, and the vegetables boiled in iron pots and 
kettles hung by chains on S-shaped hooks 
from a long iron crane. 

On the side of this fireplace there was a 
big brick oven, where on Saturdays a fire of 
fagots was kept burning till the bricks were 
thoroughly heated, when it was swept clean 
of ashes, and the bakings for the next week's 
consumption, pots of beans, Indian pudding, 
brown and white bread, pies, etc., put in, and 
the door shut tight. The bread and pies were 
taken out in the afternoon, but the beans and 
pudding remained inside till Sunday, when 
they were served hot. There was little or 
no cooking on Sunday, for my grandfather, 
though in his early manhood he had been Cap- 
tain of Cavalry in the Seventh Regiment, Sec- 
ond Brigade, Third Division of the Militia of 
the Commonwealth, was then senior deacon 
of the church. 

Among the old-fashioned blue-and- white 
china in common use were two large tureens, 



decorated with views of our beautiful State 
House on Beacon Hill, Boston, showing cows 
grazing on the Common in the foreground. 
You can now see one of these tureens on the 
sideboard in this room ; its mate is at the West 
Beach Hill Cottage, Beverly Farms. Some- 
times the entire menu, soup, meats and vege- 
tables, was served in one or both of these 
generous tureens, followed, perhaps, by a pud- 
ding for dessert ; and it was as good a dinner 
as you are having to-day, though not quite so 

Wool was sheared from the few sheep kept, 
carded by hand-cards and spun in the house 
on the same old wheel now up-stairs here. I 
recall distin6lly the pleasant hum and buzz of 
this wheel in winter. The yarn was dyed a 
dark indigo blue, but not, I think, at the farm, 
and then sent to a little water mill at West 
Chelmsford, where it was woven with a strong 
cotton warp into an excellent fabric, called 
"farmer's frocking," from which was made 


the long warm frocks which the men wore in 
their winter work. 

A seamstress, named Lucy Shed, whom we 
children called" Bumble Bee," from her stout- 
ness, cut and sewed these and other garments 
for the household, she living in the house while 
so occupied. I had a small blue frock, which 
gave me more real satisfaction than any clothes 
I have ever had since. The stockings, mittens, 
gloves and neck comforters for the family were 
knit from this yarn, in the house. 

There was also a small wheel for spin- 
ning flax, which is now in the library, but I do 
not remember that it was ever used in my 
day , and it does not show signs of having done 
much work, while the wool wheel has evi- 
dently earned its living by long service. 

There were always several hives of bees 
in the garden, which supplied ample store of 
honey, and this, I suppose, took the place of 
the white loaf sugar for some purposes. The 
West India soft brown sugar in common use 


was not attra6live in appearance, and had a 
rummy flavor. 

When the bees swarmed it became a matter 
of much anxiety to secure them in a new hive. 
Sometimes the swarm, led by a revolutionary 
member, would try to secede, and rising in a 
body some fifteen feet in the air, would fly off 
with much humming, which could be heard 
at a considerable distance, in a bee line for the 
woods, or some isolated trees. When this hap- 
pened, we ran along in front of them, beating 
tin cans and throwing up sand, trying to turn 
them back or make them swarm again where 
they could be secured. I do not remember that 
we ever succeeded in doing so. When , as usual , 
the bees swarmed on a bush or on a rail, placed 
for the purpose near their old home, a skilful 
person could generally re-hive them without 
much risk. But occasionally the bees would 
become unruly and then angry, when those of 
us who were watching the progress of events 
would scatter to a safe distance. 


In the autumn a pair of steers or oxen, that 
had worked during the summer, were fatted 
and sent to Brighton to be sold. 

In the spring the young cattle and calves 
were branded. A responsible drover came 
along, colle6led such stock from the neigh- 
boring farms, and drove them, often quite a 
herd, over the highway to Vermont, to graze 
during the summer on the rich hill pastures. 
They were driven down again in the autumn 
to be raised or fatted for market, much as is 
pra6lised in Switzerland nowadays. Our stock 
went to Stoddard. 

The dire6l highway from Boston to Con- 
cord, New Hampshire, called the Mammoth 
Road, passed through the farm in front of the 
house. It was traversed by large wagons co- 
vered by white canvas, and drawn by teams of 
four or six horses. Going north these were 
filled with store-goods, bringing back farm 
produce in return. They usually passed our 


farm on Fridays. Sometimes there were sev- 
eral in a convoy, and in dry weather they 
raised great clouds of dust, from the poorly 
built road, which could be seen long before 
the teams came in sight, and after they had 

On the tail-board of these wagons there 
was usually a hogshead of New England rum, 
taken on from the Medford distillery as they 
came through that town. In those days rum 
was the only spirit in common use; it was 
cheap and potent, and an injury to the farming 
community. Perhaps the large quantities of 
salted meats consumed stimulated the craving 
for a " toddy " more cheering than the domes- 
tic hard cider. 

No coal was then used in the country. The 
wood for fuel was cut in winter in the wood- 
lot some two miles up the Westford road, and 
hauled down on ox sleds, making a big pile in 
the dooryard ; also a few logs to be sawed into 



boards for repairing the premises. I greatly 
prized these winter excursions into the snowy 
forest as a kind of ar6lic expedition. 

Some kinds of birds were much more nu- 
merous then than now, especially the common 
pigeon. Vast flocks of these game birds flew 
to the north in the spring, returning south in 
the autumn. " Pigeon stands," so called, were 
prepared in a wood or near its edge, away 
from any house, some twenty feet square, the 
brush cleared away, and grain scattered on 
the ground, which would attra6l the birds in 
large quantities. A net was so arranged on 
poles on one side of the stand that by pulling 
a string when the birds were busy feeding, it 
would suddenly cover the space and imprison 
the game ; and great numbers were caught in 
this simple way. 

Partridge in the woods and quail in the 
thickets along the stone walls were more com- 
mon than nowadays. In the pasture behind 
the barns, where were many old hollow apple 



trees suitable for nests, turtle-doves, — a very 
beautiful bird, — wood-pigeons and woodpeck- 
ers abounded, and in the meadows beyond 
larks and bobolinks were plentiful. The hang- 
ing nests of the golden oriole were always 
pending from the great elms about the house. 
Chimney swallows built in the big kitchen 
chimney, the nests occasionally tumbling down 
on to the hearth, and the eaves of the barns 
were plastered inside and out with the clay 
nests of the swifts. 

My uncle, Philip Spalding (whose name- 
sake is soon to be one of the rulers of this 
great city ) ,had much taste for and knowledge 
of horticulture, and was very successful in 
growing flowers and fruits. He was a gentle 
and refined man, but beyond his gardening 
was not very practical. 

At the time of a craze for raising silkworms 
from the leaves of the plant Moms Multicaulis, 
which industry promised a sure fortune, he 
bought a supply of plants and silkworm eggs. 


The plants were set out in the garden where 
raspberries and thimbleberries had formerly 
flourished. Benches were fitted up in the gran- 
ary for the worms, which were duly hatched. 
Though the plants grew rapidly the worms 
did better still. More and more leaves were 
needed daily, while the plants supplied less 
and less. In this emergency, to avert a fatal 
disaster and the loss of a fortune, resource was 
had to a group of old mulberry trees on top of 
Robin's Hill, two miles in front of the house, 
but four miles by road. Thither I was sent in 
a wagon day after day to pick the leaves. The 
squirrels were fond of the sweet mulberries, 
which were plentiful, and they became so used 
to seeing me up in the trees and beneath them, 
that they treated me in the most friendly way. 
By feeding the worms with these leaves they 
were saved alive until in due time they turned 
into beautiful yellow cocoons. These, when 
first baked to kill the chrysalis inside, were 
immersed in hot water, and the raw silk was 



reeled off and made into hanks for the market. 
I never heard what the financial result was, but 
as the experiment was not repeated, I think 
it turned out a failure. For myself I was not 
sorry, as I had had enough of leaf picking. 

After the death of my grandmother the 
housekeeper was Hannah Wilson, a Vermont 
young woman, with a bright complexion and 
red hair. She was very efficient and a good 
cook. One day in a paroxysm of house-clean- 
ing she lighted upon a box of old papers in 
the garret and emptied them into the pig- 
yard, the general receptacle for rubbish. Hap- 
pily my Uncle Philip discovered what she had 
done just in time to jump into the yard, dis- 
perse the pigs, who were already destroying 
the papers, and rescue many of them ; but 
some were ruined. Among those saved were 
civil and military commissions and semi-pub- 
lic documents, official and private correspond- 
ence, bundles of deeds nearly two hundred 
years old, and various valuable papers of dates 


before, during and after the Revolution, which 
are now arranged and preserved among the 
Family Records in my keeping. 

Among the commissions, for example, is 
one from "William Shirley, Esq., Captain 
General and Governor in Chief in and over 
His Majesty's Province in Massachusetts Bay 
in New England &c.,'' appointing "Simeon 
Spaulding, Gentleman, to be cornet of the 
first troop of horse," dated March 18, 1755. 
There is also one dated " In the 28th year of 
His Majesty King George the Second. Annoq. 
Domini 1 755," and signed " W. Shirley." An- 
other commission, twenty years later, — 1 775, 
— appointing Simeon "to be one of our Jus- 
tices to keep our peace," was signed by " Sa- 
muel Adams, Secy.," whose statue now stands 
in Adams Square, Boston. 

But shortly there was no peace to keep, 
for another commission, dated February 12, 
1 776, appointed Simeon " one of the Field offi- 
cers of the Seventh Regiment in the sixteenth 


year of the Reign of George the Third &c/' 
Two days later another commission appointed 
Simeon colonel of the regiment. This last doc- 
ument is interesting as showing the printed 
heading, "George the Third, by the Grace 
of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, 
King, Defender of the Faith &c./' crossed out, 
and having this title written above," The Gov- 
ernment and People of the Massachusetts Bay 
in New England," and at the bottom the date, 
"In the 15th year of His Majesty's Reign," 
crossed out, and the words, "In the year of 
our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and 
seventy-five," substituted. You will notice that 
these Rebels were using the King's stationery 
without his knowledge or consent, which was 
certainly wrong. 

These commissions are a good inheritance, 
and rank with those issued by Abraham Lin- 
coln to my brothers John, Edward and Henry. 

The other important route from the sea to 
the back country was by the then famous Mid- 


dlesex canal, which was opened for traffic just 
a century ago. It began at Middlesex Village, 
on the bank of the Merrimack River, some 
three miles from the farm, and ended at a ba- 
sin in Haymarket Square, Boston, — a distance 
of twenty-seven miles. The crafts were long, 
narrow flat-bottomed scows, called "canal- 
boats. "They were towed by horses and moved 
about three miles an hour, bringing down such 
bulky things as lumber, cord- wood, bricks, 
hay, etc., and carrying back store-goods. By 
means of several sets of locks on the river, 
this navigation reached Concord, New Hamp- 
shire, sixty-five miles from Boston. The canal 
cost half a million dollars, a large sum in 
those days. Besides these freight boats, there 
were " packet-boats,'' for passengers. I have 
been told that, some time in my first year, my 
mother made this voyage, taking me with her, 
when she went to visit Madame Dalton at her 
house, N^- 82 Mt. Vernon Street, Boston. If 
this is true — and I have no reason to doubt it 



— I probably enjoy the distin6lion of being the 
only living person who first arrived in Boston 
by a canal-boat. But I do not claim any great 
merit on this account. 

When the Boston and Lowell Railroad was 
opened, nearly seventy years ago, the value of 
the canal was destroyed. Afterwards the Bos- 
ton and Maine Railroad built its station on the 
site of the canal basin in Haymarket Square. 

Later still this station was moved back to 
Causeway Street, where it is now, and ten 
years ago the Boston Transit Commission took 
this same site for a subway station. I mention 
these incidents as unique illustrations of the 
radical changes in the methods of transporta- 
tion occurring at this spot during seventy years, 
as well as illustrating the progress which sci- 
ence has made ; namely, the canal-boat, towed 
by horses; the trains of cars hauled by steam- 
engines, and the ele6lric car, with its source 
of power miles away, transmitted by an insig- 
nificant-looking copper wire. 

[21 ] 


You young folks will doubtless live to see 
even greater changes, such as, for example, 
flying machines, to which I do not doubt you 
will contribute your full share. 

And I trust you will take your revenges on 
somebody by telling your stories, as a recom- 
pense for what you have so politely endured 
in listening to mine. 

33 Commonwealth Avenue 
Boston^ Massachusetts 



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